The Light of the World

Hanukkah and Christmas are celebrated around the same time during the beginning of the winter months. Hanukkah begins on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, and Christmas on December 25th. Hanukkah commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned eight days. Christmas celebrates the miracle of the virgin birth of the Messiah. Both holidays are celebrated because of a happening that took place in the land of Israel. Both events were accompanied with great joy and expectation. Both holidays employ lights in their festivities. Both were accompanied with Jewish praise and thanksgiving in the Temple. Both Jews and Christians have been the subject of persecution throughout the centuries. They both look to the Hebrew Bible as part of their comfort and canon. And both await the coming of the Messiah.

This commonality has brought Jews and Christians into dialogue, often times for the worse. More recently, Christian-Jewish dialogue has come together in ecumenical settings in attempts to find common ground and better understand each other’s theology and customs. Reconciliation movements have grown up around them seeking to come into a deeper understanding of the breaches of the past through prayer, repentance, and relationship-building.

As the holidays are upon us, it is well for Jews and Christians to consider the complementary relationship of the two holidays, and of the two religions. For example, the miracle of Hanukkah speaks of the purified oil that burned in the Temple for eight days. On the eighth day of Messiah’s birth he was named Yeshua, “a light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of Israel.” It is actually his birth that brought the two peoples into relationship, which was a foretelling of the mystery of the union of Jew and Gentile: that Messiah came into the world to bring the “good news” to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. Those who embrace the Messiah as the fulfillment of God’s plan will be comforted to know that if we lift up Yeshua He will draw all people to himself, and to each other – both Jew and Gentile. Hence, the celebration of Hanukah and Christmas should be focused on Yeshua, the Light of the World.

Chag sameach and Merry Christmas!

This article was written by Rabbi Elliot Klayman. For more by Rabbi Klayman, read his articles “Gilgamesh, the Flood, and the Garden,” “Yeshua: the Sukkah of God,” or “Isaac and Yom Kippur.”

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